A Drifting Soul

The story of Daithi, a young shaman of the Nioneska prior to the events of A House Of Photographs.

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15. Decisions

"You lived through a war, enslavement, and persecution! You're not going out that easily!"

A voice, familiar and loud pulled Daithi into consciousness. Every muscle ached and he coughed up water. Dazed and confused, he rolled over onto the rocky shoreline and saw he was at the river that ran past his Andruisk. He tried to remember what happened but he couldn't manage. Something was missing. Something was forgotten. Daithi stared dumbly at the spirit, round face young and tinged red like leaves, trying desperately to piece things together. But he couldn't.

"W....W-why am I wet? W-why am I-I here?" He slurred. Daithi was unaware of even where his body lay or how it sat on the stones. He couldn't feel anything.

The spirit said nothing but instead weaved leaves and sticks so they reached into the sky like a spiraling tower then exploding into a gentle and lazy firework of ambering leaves. They scattered around on the soft earth, still wet from morning dew. Then she knelt down by a basket that laid mere inches from Daithi's fingertips. He stared hard at the grains of the thin strips of wood, searching for some memory that nagged at him. But, try as he might, nothing came to mind but the faces of people he once knew. For a moment, Daithi feared he was dying when he saw the faces of Roberts, Dominque, Corina, Bijou, and his parents and other elders.

The surprised cooing broke the silence of the early morning. The spirit was crouched and donned a wistful look in her misty eyes as she played with the tiny hands that reached out from the basket. But the hands passed through her fingers as all men's hands do. No mortal man could touch her kind, not even Daithi's though their longevity bordered on immortal.

"I am truly sorry, Daithi. I didn't realize how much you loved her, that Laurel. Of all the power I possess, there isn't a thing I can do to take that ache away," she breathed, as if saying the words out loud would force Daithi to recommence his mourning. The sight of Laurel lying in the bloodied blankets flooded back to Daithi and he began to cry. Not his horrible wailing that shook the house in which he cried, but quiet and accepting that he couldn't change anything.  "But I know the hearts of man. I have lived through many ages. You need time to heal. But this one needs someone who knew who Laurel was. It needs you. And I sense that you need it too." Through his anguish, Daithi knew that was true. He crawled forward and peered in the basket. A pair of the bluest eyes he'd ever seen stared up at him. He couldn't pull his focus away from them. Not even when hands picked him up and dragged him away. He never looked away from that baby for an instant. Laurel's baby. And no matter what it took, no matter how selfish he might have been, Daithi swore to himself, teary eyed, that there would be nothing to get between him and that baby.

 

"Daithi Jason Rauri Desmond. Tell us what happened. You were meant to have been on a hunting trip. But your sister Ramona told us you were present at Laurel's home, a place you are forbidden to go, and ran off. Now Darius is missing, Laurel is dead, and her infant was found in your possession. You must explain what happened." The elder's voice was hard and cold. Council members were never this way. And Daithi was a council member. They had given him an elixir to soothe his nerves but sitting there, dripping wet and grieving, Daithi didn't know where to begin. Finally he spoke in a wavering voice.

"I did nothing to...to Laurel," he stuttered, nearly a sob. "...I never saw Darius except for one instant. He threw Laurel's baby in the river....I'll take whatever punishment you want for leaving the hunting party. It wasn't my fault but I'll take the blame if that's what it takes for...."

"What it takes for what?" An elder barked. Sampsa walked in at that moment. His anger was evident. Meeting an judgment were never to be passed without all members of the council present. Especially the Champas. His hands were bony fists almost ready to start flying.

"Leave him be. Give him time to grieve. Both he and Ramona cared deeply for Laurel. Regardless of what anyone of us think, Daithi is distraught. Let him rest." Sampsa then shooed them all away to be alone with Daithi. His thick brows knit together, sharing in Daithi's pain. He placed his large hands on Daithi's shoulders, feeling how small and weak he seemed in that instant. He pressed his forehead to Daithi's and listened to Daithi's sobbing. Daithi's hands reached for Sampsa's arms just to keep him ground, keep him from falling to pieces. The sunlight through the window was like a spotlight. And the familiar room with the dirt floor and shelves and the vent and jars of goods didn't glow with the coziness it once did. It was all hard edges and clod walls to contain the emotions.

"Sampsa! If I could have taken her place! I would do anything!" Daithi cried. Sampsa was almost in tears and he took in a shuddery breath. It broke his heart that his baby brother had been through so much suffering and sorrow. "Don't ever let Darius have her baby....he tried to kill him....please....I've never asked anything of you and your status before....but do this and I won't ever again." Sampsa sigh and pursed his lips. His ran his fingers over the stitches in Daithi's shirt.

"I...I promise."

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